Imidacloprid is a new, chloronicotinyl insecticide currently being used to control sweetpotato whitefly [Bemisia tabaci Genn, also known as silverleaf whitefly (Bemisia argentifolii Bellows and Perring)]. Large growth and yield increases of muskmelon (Cucumis melo L.) following the use of imidacloprid have caused some to speculate that this compound may enhance growth and yield above that expected from insect control alone. Greenhouse and field studies were conducted to evaluate the growth and yield response of melons to imidacloprid in the presence and absence of whitefly pressure. In greenhouse cage studies, sweetpotato whiteflies developed very high densities of nymphs and eclosed pupal cases on plants not treated with imidacloprid, and significant increases in vegetative plant growth were inversely proportional to whitefly densities. Positive plant growth responses were absent when plants were treated with imidacloprid and insects were excluded. Results from a field study showed similar whitefly control and yield responses to imidacloprid and bifenthrin + endosulfan applications. Hence, we conclude that growth and yield response to imidacloprid is associated with control of whiteflies and the subsequent prevention of damage, rather than a compensatory physiological promotion of plant growth processes. Chemical names used: 1-[(6-chloro-3-pyridinyl)methyl]-4,5-dihydro-N-nitro-1-H-imidazol-2-amine (imidacloprid); [2 methyl(1,1′-biphenyl)-3yl)methyl 3-2-chloro-3,3,3-trifluoro-1-propenyl]-2,2-dimethylcyclopropane carboxylate (bifenthrin); 6,7,8,9,10,10-hexachloro-1,5,5a,6,9,9a-hexahydro-6,9-methano-2,4,3-benzodiaxathiepin 3-oxide (endosulfan).
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